Travel | One Week In Tuscany

[This post contains a gifted stay and a number of gifted experiences. Each will be denoted with a *]

If you're anything like me, when you think Tuscany, you think beautiful rolling vineyards, delicious food and gallons of wine. And you wouldn't be wrong my friend. But where do you start? What do you do? Who do you take? WHERE DO YOU DRINK SAID WINE?!? Never fear dear reader, I'm here to tell you the best way to spend One Week In Tuscany. 

 Where Did I Stay and what was it like..?
Look, it's almost impossible to describe Villa Le Tornaie* because it is a whole new level of incredible but I am going to try my very, very hardest. This said, let's start with a little video tour so you can see what I'm up against...

Anyone who knows me knows that my sense of geography is AWFUL. So, despite having been to Tuscany in my younger years, I had little to no idea what I was doing or where I was going. Fortunately, the less drink-y of the group had put their very brave hands up and offered to drive rental cars collected at Pisa Airport the two and a half hours to our Villa which was situated in a glorious stretch of countryside just between Arezzo and Sienna. When you arrive somewhere and the below scene is the view from your bedroom window, you know you're onto a good thing.

With an outdoor pool, gym, sauna, steam room, hot tub, HUGE dining room, PIANO (for crying out loud), 9 bathrooms and 7 bedrooms (I'm out of breath now), Villa Le Tornaie* sleeps up to 16 people with a very fancy array of twin and double rooms. If you're planning to get away with your extended family, the beautifully renovated farmhouse lends itself perfectly to bringing everyone together whilst still allowing privacy and the option to get away from each other (essential right..?) 

This was some real high end accommodation and our hostess, Francessca, could not have done more to look after us. From dining recommendations, directions to the supermarket and a couple of bottles of wine from our very own vineyard (more on that later!), her welcome was so incredibly warm it took no time at all to feel like we were very much home from home. 

What Did I Do..?
Oh. My. Gosh. What didn't I do? Violet had arranged us a jam packed schedule of all things Tuscan and we loved ever singly minute. The simplest and most useful way to describe it all is in a list. Because lists are fun guys.

Private Florence Food Tour with LivItaly Tours*
As someone who doesn’t eat meat, is careful around dairy and prefers to snack rather than chow down, I’ve always been a bit cautious of food tours. BUT I WAS WRONG, and am not overselling it when I say that I simply cannot recomend the LivItaly food tour* enough.

The Em Edit

From street food to fine dining, with some cracking wine stops in the middle (Specifics below) our tastebuds were well and truly tantalised. Something I quickly learnt about Tuscany is that there is a glorious abundance of strong, opinionated and fascinating women, of which Raffaella is very much part of.

Starting with family owned grocers, fish stores and deli’s tucked away in the winding streets of Florence, Raffaella told us all we needed to know about the specialities of the city, the history of the buildings and the culture we were quickly dreaming of joining.

Next stop was Enoteca Alessi. If you were somehow able to tap into my dreams, extract Javier Bardem and the 76 kittens, Enoteca Alessi would be what you were left with. I didn’t attempt to count the bottles of wine because I was on holiday and counting is a work thing. But there are a lot. Also rum. And gin. And vodka. Look, there was just a lot of alcohol ok AND WE WERE ALLOWED TO TRY IT. 

As I mentioned before, I was a wee bit nervy about the sheer amount of meat and cheese that I assumed we’d be presented with and there WAS a lot, but that’s not all there was and TRUST ME when I say that red wine goes down lovely with some fresh bruschetta.

The taste of chianti fresh on our palettes, we were on to L’Antico Trippaio, Acqua Al 2 (Again, more details below - I don’t want to get too foodie quite yet…) and then to Piazza Della Signoria to sample some of the most stunning gelato of my life. By this point of the tour, we were full (food AND culture), we were happy and we’d had a really lovely experience provided by a woman who I think we all wanted to take home with us.

I want to take this opportunity to highlight a really important point that Raffaella made on this tour - If your tour company and guide don’t know that there are dietary needs, they can’t cater to them. Don’t be polite about it (we weren’t and there were still plenty of options) Be honest and you’ll enjoy the experience* much more.

Pizza and pasta making with Ristorante Belvedere*
Just down the road from the Villa is the fabulously fancy Ristorante Belvedere, specialising in fresh, locally sourced food. We were mega lucky and got to experience their food not once but TWICE.

The Em Edit

On the first night, Chef Paolo took the ultimate risk and visited our Villa, a Villa full of ten VERY hungry women. Luckily he had a secret weapon up his sleeves - PIZZA. In fact, five different pizzas, freshly made in our own kitchen and featuring beautiful fresh toppings, including a Nutella pizza to end with, which I think about on a regular basis
The Em Edit

On the last night, WE took a risk and joined Chef Massimo in making our own pasta. I'm not going to lie to you, some of us were better than others, I mean *I* was quite clearly AMAZING (I wasn't) but the end results were incredibly varied. From lasagne to linguini, we made five different types of pasta which we then ate (That's a lot of pasta), finishing with an utterly gorgeous cheesecake which, thankfully I was nowhere near the production of..

Estate Tour and Wine Tasting with Manasalto Vineyard*

As I aluded earlier in this here article, we had our own vineyard. Because why wouldn't we? Cue our incredible hostess Francessca, now taking on the role of tour guide and all round wine BOSS. 
The Em Edit

Starting with a guided tasting session, taking in a chianti, a brut rose and their very best Castello Rapale. We were taken through the workings of the Mansalto vineyard in a way that was so engaging I would have happily packed it all in to stay there and stomp the grapes myself (I joke, they have machines to that now, much to my disappointment)

The Em Edit

It was honestly an absolute honour to spend time with people so passionate about what they do and who want to take you along for the ride. Hashtag blessed indeed. 

Where Did I Eat and also, maybe more importantly, drink..? 
I ate. I ate a lot. I also drank. Again, a lot. (It was chianti though, which I am reliably informed is the Tuscan equivalent of water so it completely didn't count). Many of the places we dined were part of tours but not once did I feel we were railroaded into eating somewhere I wouldn't have chosen myself. Stand out experiences are as follows:

The Em Edit
Chiosco Ai Renai* - Via del Vallone 34, 50051, Castelfiorentino
Cute, kitsch and boho as heck, Chiosco Ai Renai was a must visit for me. With cool cocktails, fancy sharing platters and a real laid back vibe, we could have spent hours just chilling out and watching the world go by. 

L'Antico Trippaio* - Piazza de' Cimatori, 50100, Florence,
L'Antico Trippaio is one of those places that proves that eating experiences aren't all about fine dining. A perpetually packed family food stand, tucked down the backstreets of Florence, their speciality are tripe sandwiches, which I promise you smell (and I hear, taste) better than they sound.

The Em Edit
Acqua Al 2* - Via della Vigna Vecchia 40/R, 50122, Florence
If you're after something a little fancier, Acqua Al 2 is the one for you. We ate a three course traditional Italian yet totally veggie meal and I was blown away. I WILL be back.
Ristorante La Scuderia* - via del Vallone 34 Castelfiorentino
Ristorante La Scuderia is the very definition of a Tuscan restaurant to me. An incredibly warm welcome, delicious simple fresh food and perfect atmosphere, a must visit if you're in the neighbourhood.
Top Tips For Tuscany
Pack your bug spray
I already knew I had the potential to be eaten alive because I am utterly delicious, but even with the strongest of deet bug sprays, I was very much nibbled. From past experience, I can recommend the plug in bug deterrents which I will now never travel without. It's been itch central my friends.

Try as many local wines as you can
We enjoy certain wines in the UK because they're what have made it into the stores. Some of the most delicious locally produced wines just aren't cost effective enough to export over here so your only chance to enjoy them is when you're over there in person.
The Em Edit
Take time to enjoy yourself
This is my top tip for every trip but there’s just so much to see in Tuscany and it can be quite easy to miss the things that really make Italy just so Italian unless you take the time to sit back (Potentially with an Aperol…?) and take it all in. Plan your days to mix the sights with some real time to absorb it, smell that pizza, watch those sunsets and taste that limoncello. 

I seriously cannot recommend a week in Tuscany* enough. If you do go, let me know what I may have missed, I'd be more than happy to pay another visit...
Em x